Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Bread... but Chains

Social Justice. To be honest, the term has started to strike a nerve when I hear it. Not the kind that irritates, but the kind that catches my attention. It’s been said that this term will define our entire generation. Specifically, Bono has said the way we respond to the Aids crisis in Africa will define us.

It’s true. We live in a world full of dying orphans, child soldiers, sex slaves and filthy rich white men who justify it all. We live in a world that’s broken to its very core on every level. Where do we find a solution? How do we solve the problems that seem to outnumber my ability to count them all?

As Christians we’re given two commands; to love the Lord with all my heart (number one), and then to love my neighbor as myself (coming second on the list). This is where we find our problem. Somewhere along the way the action of “loving” someone got watered down to mean “feed them”, “build them a well”, or “just meet their need.”

My fellow redeemers, if we look at a man and give him bread but put forth no effort to break his chains we do not love him. We simply use him and leave him a captive to the enemy we were set free from. Our actions then are not rooted in love but pride. The motivations behind them were not to “love” him, but to make ourselves feel better about our own life because we did something noteworthy. In reality, it’s a rather selfish attempt. We can’t loose sight of the fact that no matter how bad this world seems to be, it is temporary. Our intentions must be to meet more than just his physical needs.

As light in a dark world it is our responsibility to not live a self-centered life. Jesus actually said “whatever you do for the least of these, you’ve done for me.” (Matthew 25:40) We are called to meet the needs of those less fortunate than a western-culture-college kid who drinks Starbucks three times a week. I’m called to not be so wrapped up in my iPod that I miss those who haven’t eaten this week.

We’re called to go. We’re called to love the unlovable. We’re called to meet needs, but more than anything we’re called to “deliver from bondage those who sit in darkness.” (Isaiah 42)

Take them water.
Take them relief.
Feed their children.
Deliver them from slavery.
Give them a second chance.
Show them life.
But ABOVE ALL ELSE, show them Jesus.

Love without Jesus is not love.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

I typically would not consider doing this, but I stumbled (term used loosely) upon a very well written blog by a Mr Steve McCoy. It offers a different perspective on a debate I've often found myself a part of.

Just because I offer it doesn't mean I agree whole heartedly with it, just that I think it's worth tabling for discussion.

Let's keep thinking through alcohol and abstention.Generally speaking, both sides of the issue of alcohol agree that there is no way to prove biblically that Christians should abstain from alcohol. I know there are exceptions (some of them in my inbox this week), but let's start with the premise that we can't build an air tight case for abstinence from the Bible.

The case is then often pushed to two areas (surely there are more). First, sometimes the case is made for a less fermented wine in the Bible or Welch's flowing at weddings. Some people (I've become a magnet for some of them) will go to great lengths to explain how wine in the Bible had much lower alcohol content. I've read long, rambling posts, discussion board threads, etc on this.

I'm not convinced, but I don't think it really matters that much. People in biblical times were getting drunk and so are people today, so who cares how much alcohol content there is in a drink? There are abusers looking to abuse. The biblical point doesn't change. It's abuse that is the problem, not the alcohol content. You can sip whiskey, mix the Captain with Coke, or whatever. As long as you don't get drunk and drink for the glory of God, you are cool, biblically speaking.

So the argument for alcohol content, in my opinion, is a bit of a red herring. It is off topic. The biblical command remains, and is sufficient. Isn't that great?! It's sufficient whether we buy and drink a Smithwick's or a Seagrams 7.The second thing the lack of biblical evidence for total abstinence does to the alcohol conversation is drive some to say that we live in a culture of abuse and therefore abstinence is a must in THIS culture. But that's almost never really the point of those who argue this. If it were, they would allow for alcohol consumption for our missionaries in other cultures where things are different. But they don't allow that, which shows they really want to make an extra-biblical rule (legalism) for all of us.

But let's give the benefit of the doubt, at least for the sake of the argument. Let's say people with this position really believe it's about an abusing culture, and their inconsistency in application is out of their hands (denominational monetary pressures at work). I get that. And I understand this position and argued for it until a couple of years ago. In fact, I remember being at a Founder's Conference while in seminary and spending a couple of hours one night arguing my guts out with a Presbyterian guy about how everyone should abstain. This guy *gasp* made his own beer!

I completely disagree with this argument for abstention now. I could take the easy route and say I'd rather follow biblical rules than extra-biblical ones. But even more, my reasoning is found in the Cross that created the Church. The church is a redemptive community. We live not only the experience of redemption (I'm redeemed/being redeemed) but also the works of redemption (I'm redeeming). That's why our mission is both words and works, speaking and doing redemption.

And if we are working out our salvation through being redeemed and redeeming, then our response to cultural abuses is not to abstain but to redeem. That not only pushes us to maturity by teaching us how to eat, drink, and have sex to the glory of God (though it won't come easy), but it is also a witness to the world that God redeems. The pervert throws away the pornography (abuse) and learns to love sex with his wife (redemption). The glutton refuses to order a 5 piece fried chicken and fries meal (abuse) and learns to order a salad with light dressing instead (redemption). The alcohol abuser stops drinking until drunk (abuse) and learns to stop after a beer or two (redemption).

As long as we make the issue "abstaining," we will miss expressing and embodying redemption. And I'm afraid the message we will send is that good things can be perverted beyond redemption.

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